Category Archives: Knowledge

West Coast Swing History

Back & White photo of men & women dancing west coast swing in a crowded dance floor and room

West Coast Swing History

Here is a brief outline of our understanding of West Coast Swing history that we have assembled through various workshops and personal research into the subject. To figure out where you’re going, it’s helpful to know where you come from.

‘There is only 2 styles of Swing… good and bad.’ – Dean Collins

West Coast Swing in the early days – 1930’s-1950’s

West Coast Swing is born out of competition Swing dancing. Lindy dancers used 6 count ‘Push’ and ‘Pass’ patterns to reset phrasing after dancing a ‘Swingout’ (the origin for ‘Whip’) to an hit an accent on 1, 2. At some stage teh 6 counts became more WWII had a huge impact on how the dance travelled further around the world. It then morphed into regional forms of Swing such as, Lindy Hop – Jump Swing – Flying Lindy – Balboa – Bal Swing – West Coast Swing – Dallas Push – Houston Whip. Imperial Swing – Western Swing – Country Swing – Carolina Shag – Collegiate Shag – St Louis Shag – Hand Dance. East Coast Swing – DC Hand dance – Rock n Roll- Ballroom Jive – Skip Jive – Modern Jive – Boogie Woogie – Swedish Bug and more.

The lost years

Arthur Murray studios taught a version of WCS at the time known as Western Swing.  the dance started from closed position and after the ‘throwout’ began with a walk, walk for the follower. The Golden State Dance Teachers Association (GSDTA) began teaching the walk steps, counts 1 and 2. It also replaced Lauré Haile’s Coaster Step with an “Anchor Step” around 1961. “West Coast swing” as a synonym for “Western swing” appears in a 1961 dance book. Also, in an advertisement by Skippy Blair in 1962 but wasn’t incorporated into mainstream swing circles until the late 1960s. With limited media resources and travel not yet accessible to everyone. All the regional styles are still developing independent from each other.

End of the Century – 1980’s-1990’s

This period of WCS is when dancers started to travel across the USA to attend National conventions. 1977 the first US Open Championships held in Las Vegas and won by Michael & Amber Cross. In 1982 then held, in California and Lance Shermoen & Mary-Ann Nunez were the winners. Since then, there has been many impressions left on the community by it’s champions. Who each had their own personalities and styles. Jack Carey & Annie Hirsch – Lance Shermoen & Mary-Ann Nunez – Wayne & Sharlot Bott – Johnathon Bixby & Silvia Sykes. Sonny Watson – Kelly Casanova – Debbie Rasey-Boz – Robert Royston & Laureen Baldovi-Mason. Robert Cordoba & Deborah Szekely – Mario Robau & Carmen Scarborough – Barry Durand & Dawn Garrish.  All deserve credit for inspiring and steering the community with their amazing talents. Not to forget the Shaggers. Charlie Womble & Jackie McGee – Sam & Lisa West – Micheal & LeeAnn Norris. They have also made a huge impact on the community and the way that we dance West Coast Swing today.

West Coast Swing – Last 20 years

Has seen an explosion of WCS dancing all over the world.  With technology and affordable air travel bringing us closer together. Events like Swing Diego and Boogie by the Bay have helped to showcase the top WCS dancers to a much wider audience. This has inspired so many new people to get involved with WCS. Music has been such a big a part of what has made WCS more accessible to more people. You can dance WCS to any 4/4 timing. That doesn’t always mean its a good song to dance to, but it means that everyone will find something they like. Modern day dance heroes have played a huge role in transferring the ideas of WCS on a global scale. Couples such as Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann – Kyle Redd & Sarah-Vann Drake are most peoples inspiration for getting into WCS.   Many modern styles of music are suitable for WCS and will make sure it continues to live in popular culture. We can only see WCS becoming more popular as dance style that fits so many different types of people.

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Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.

How to get better at West Coast Swing?

How to get better at West Coast Swing?

Many dancers we meet want to know how to get better at West Coast Swing dancing. There are so many ways to improve your dancing and our site is full of useful tips, articles, videos about being a better west coast swing dancer.  Here are some of our top tips to being a better WCS dancer.

6 ways to improve your WCS without a partner.

Footwork Drills

Dancing footwork alone is essential to develop confidence to improvise in WCS.  Learning moves like a Sweep, Ronde, kick ball change, Moonwalk, Applejack, James Brown as well as learning line dance, hip hop, contemporary and ballet routines can give you lots to think about when a partner is not available.

Counting Music

We all listen to music everywhere we go, in the house, in the car, in the shopping centre.  Counting out the bars and phrases, learning to distinguish rhythm and isolated instruments are a massive advantage when it comes to social west coast swing dancing.  It can be tricky to know when to start counting so here is a little guide. Many song verse and chorus are written out like poem that can be read in 4 lines of 8 beats some also in 6 lines of 8. that gives us 32 and 48 count phrases.  Think ‘Frere Jacques’, for 32 and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for 48. Try to find the 1 which is closely associated to the beginning of the lyric line, but watch out, as sometimes the lyrics start on the 8 before the 1 or the 2 after it. In, I feel good by James Brown the 1 is on the word ‘good’ meaning the ‘I feel’ is on the 8 & which kinda of builds up to the hit, (crescendo) giving the ‘1’ even more drive to the sound.

Balance/Posture Drills

We encourage students to build these things into your daily routine,

  • Standing on alternating legs whilst brushing your teeth, ironing, food prep, washing.
  • Set the rear view mirror tilt in your car high to optimise head position
  • When walking make sure to pass feet softly past one another
  • When carrying hot drinks/multiple filled glasses you’ll notice you have a perfectly smooth flight.
  • Notice that you body is in a compressed state when walking on stairs.
  • Stretching exercises, Yoga and Pilates are all great ways to help maintain a healthy body for dancing.

Practice without a partner

Most people don’t have a regular partner to dance with which makes it imperative to develop a sense of shadow dancing.  Different than the footwork drills and line dance routines, we suggest that emulate your West Coast Swing dancing through your basics and optional variations as if your partner was there. It’s like having an imaginary Best West Coast Sing Partner. So when you meet your real life ideal partner your ready to take the opportunity.


Take the time to review your material. Notes and videos made throughout classes, workshops or private lessons.  Even just thinking about the information that you have been gaining can help to re-inforce it.  Often this can be a great way to distract your mind when encountering stress or can be a useful ‘falling to sleep’ tool.

Find a WCS role model

Someone of a similar body type to you so that you can see exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve.  Study the videos you can find from that dancer and when you get the chance got take a class with them. Instructors of all body shapes can be great to learn the steps initially but if you find it hard to associate to them, this can be a useful idea.

5 way to improve your WCS with your partner

Count aloud

If you find that you and your partner seem to be on a different page over the subject of your practice then counting the steps that each individual are completing, at the same time, can help to identify irregularities between partners. This is probably the best way to move forward together.

Use a prop

Try using a scarf, hoop or exercise band to transfer you’re connection can be fun and less confrontational.  This can be held in a single hand, both in front of body or event wrapped at waist behind body. You might even like to try without hand at all, simply using the body remittances to transfer/receive the message.

Watch your partner

For the same reason that Skiers are told ‘Don’t look at the trees’ dancers should look at their partner, target fixation.  Of course, their is a line between being attentive and being creepy, lol. The way we manage that is to encourage dancers to look at each other at the ends of the slot and avoid eye contact when in close proximity.  Both partners should also make sure to watch whilst one of your is turning, even though your looking at the back of the head it’s important to offer a secure ‘feel’ to your partner.

Keep your slot

Keeping your steps and styling relatively small will ensure that you and your partner encounter less risk of a collision or accidents on the dance floor.  Especially arm styling, which in a Routine performance can be a wonderful embellishment, can often be the cause for finger in an eye situation at a busy social dance. We would all rather avoid that.

Work on your stretch/anchor action

The stretch or anchoring action is very much the most unique identifying factor of WCS so if you want improve your WCS just improve your stretch/hover/delaying techniques to master the effortless swagger that comes with being an accomplished WCS dancer.

More top tips for West Coast Swing dancers…

Dancing with advanced dancers

-Don’t freak out, it’s still the same dance
-They are not usually as good as you think
-You don’t need advanced moves
-Avoid asking to dance with them to fast songs
-DJ’s can fade songs at 3 minutes to get a higher rate partner change.

Social Dancing

-Dance with everyone
-Dont wait to be asked to dance
-Be conscious of others dancing nearby
-The slot usually runs along the longest wall in the room
-Start with simple moves to gauge the partnership

Footwear & Clothing

-Flat/low heeled shoes with a smooth sole
-Avoid big earings and rings and bracelets
-Take your watch off for dancing
-Wear comfortable clothing not too baggy underarms
-Bring an extra shirt when the weather is warm


-Shower before coming to class
-Brush your teeth or carry mints
-Wash your hands, carry sanitiser
-Carry Anti-perspirant and use outside of the dance hall
-Avoid using hand cream right before dancing
-Make sure your hair is dry and is tied as not to hit your partner

Follow EastonSwing Facebook page for all the latest news and updates. Read more of our Blogs

Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.

What is West Coast Swing

A west coast swing group of men and women dancing west coast swing dancers in a church hall with a dark parquet floor.

What is West Coast Swing?

West Coast Swing is a dance from California, USA. Born from Lindy Hop and danced to an array of musical styles. Characterised by a distinctive, elastic look that results from basic extension/compression techniques. Danced on a ‘Slot’, (a rectangular space on the dance floor). The Follower dancing forward and backward in this space. Whilst the Leader dances on and off the slot depending on the pattern. The basic moves in the dance are 6 & 8 count combinations of Double and Triple rhythm units i.e. 1 2, 3&4, 5&6 or 1 2, 3&4, 5 6, 7&8.

Moving beyond the basics. The dance allows for both partners to improvise steps while dancing patterns together.  Making West Coast Swing a dance with endless opportunities for improvisation and musicality.

West Coast Swing Today

Is very different from in the 1930’s. The evolution of WCS has paralleled popular music and culture. Which is why WCS has continued to grow in popularity over the last 90 years. In the 1980’s, National dance competitions drew dancers together from all over the US. For the first time they brought together their regional versions of swing dancing. This was a key time for growth in the community with many Pro’s sharing knowledge and style. Houston Whip, Dallas Push, Carolina Shag, Lindy Hop, Balboa, Boogie Woogie.

All these swing styles that contribute to todays hybrid version of West Coast Swing. Other forms of dance are also interwoven into WCS, such as, Hustle, Tango, Salsa, Zouk, Latin, Ballroom & Hip Hop. Think Hustle whip, Telemark Scroll or Upper body styling for some examples. A constant evolution is a part of the fabric of WCS. Driven by it’s champions and every single person that steps onto the dance floor.  There is inspiration all around us that you can use in west coast swing dancing. The wide variety of music helps aide in the limitless creativity within this dance.

West Coast Swing Community

The community of WCS dancers around the world reaches far and wide. You’ll find a welcoming smile everywhere you go. We’re forever delighted by the talents that are present in WCS dancers around the world. You can go to almost any part of the world and find a budding WCS scene and the online WCS community is as rich as real world. With many websites, forums, groups and social media pages to keep you on the pulse of the worldwide vibe.

Where did it come from?

There are many differing theories about where WCS originates. The most plausible one that we have is that. It came about when Lindy dancers, who were dancing in 8’s, would hit a break and need a 6 count pattern to get back ‘on phrase’. The most popular ways being a ‘Push’ or a ‘Pass’. This resonates with Tap dancing, that also use ‘break steps’ to get back on the phrase. The WCS whip is a slotted version of a Lindy core pattern called a ‘Swing out’.  So that gives us our 3 core patterns; Push, Pass & Whip. 
Why the slot? There are different schools of thought on this one too and some would say that ‘Hollywood’ played a role. As it was better for camera to have a uniformed slot moving across the screen. Rather than, a circular use of space that finishes at less consistent points. Others might suggest that it was to allow for more people to dance inside the same space. Either way the slot is here to stay and is an identifying characteristic of WCS.

Read our West Coast Swing History page.

What are the 5 basic moves of West Coast Swing?

Didn’t we just say that there are 3 core patterns? but there are 5 basic moves… (made up from the 3 core patterns, 2 Passes, 2 pushes and a whip).

Here they are,

Left Side Pass – A 6 six count pattern. Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step timing. Follower passes Leaders left side.

Sugar Tuck – A 6 six count pattern.Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step timing where the follower moves up to the leader and Leader turns Follower.

Under Arm Pass – A 6 six count pattern. Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step timing. Leader lifts hand and Follower passes Leaders right side going under the arm.

Sugar Push – A 6 six count pattern. Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step, Tri-ple Step timing. Follower moves up to the Leader and returns.

The Basic Whip – An 8 count pattern. Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step, Walk, Walk, Tri-ple Step timing.  Follower passes the Leader twice.

West Coast Swing Competitions

Swing dancers have always held competitions. In West Coast Swing they are most often improvised with the partner selection made at random.  Jack Carey, a founding member of the WSDC was the creator of the concept of ‘Jack & Jill’ where leaders and followers enter the category independently and partnered up at random in the heats and finals. This is a true test of a ’Social dancers’ abilities as they only succeed in competition by being able to adapt to many partners and many styles of music.   There are alsoStrictly, Classic, Showcase, Teams divisions within WCS competitions.

It was from Lindy Hop competitions that WCS was born and competition has been a natural catalyst for WCS as a whole ever since.  A ‘Jam’ circle is familiar to all swing styles and is where you bring out your ‘best’ stuff. These iconic moves get passed down from generation to generation and have become the foundation of social dance moves that get danced every night of the week in clubs everywhere. Organisations like the World Swing Dance Council (WSDC) and NASDE – National Association of Swing Dance Events offer the chance for dancers to graduate through a ranking in J&J’s and a points accumulation tour for routine dancers.

Modern West Coast Swing

In 2005 the world as a whole got a little smaller when YouTube launched and was soon followed by a huge West Coast Swing boom in Europe, Australia and Asia and ever since, WCS has been impacted by International Instructors/dancers who’ve had much success at many levels in competition. There are now multiple European Pro’s touring the WCS scene. WCS festivals and events are happening almost every weekend of the year supporting an array of West Coast Swing professional dancers, services and products.There is still a strong connection to the dance that migrated across the US from New York to LA just under 100 years ago, but like those great cities, things have changed.

When people first danced WCS it was modern, and in the 1960’s when it first came to Europe, it was modern then too. Now we are in the 21st century and there has even been discussion of actually changing the name to Modern Swing.Whether the name changes or not, WCS will always be Modern because it is not tied to a time period, nor is it attached to a particular cultural movement.But it has been a constantly changing reflection of a culture that once was exclusive to North America but is now shared by the whole world.

What’s next?

Who knows what is next for WCS? No-one can know for sure but it is likely to keep adapting and evolving to stay a part of contemporary culture.  It’s going to be an exciting journey and we’ll be there to experience it. Sharing our knowledge, insights and observations to help encourage the next generation of West Coast Swing dancers to thrive.

Follow EastonSwing Facebook page for all the latest news and updates.

Learn WCS for FREE!

In addition to the 5 basic moves video we offer a Free membership to our Level2 Subscription.  Sign up with your email at our website and get access to more than 20 free WCS class videos.